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At least 90 students residing in the men’s hostel at Manipur University were detained by the police in a midnight raid Thursday. Five faculty members were also detained, sourced told The Indian Express. Among those detained are several top office-bearers, including the president of the Manipur University Students Union (MUSU) which spearheaded the campaign demanding an investigation into allegations of mismanagement and financial irregularities against Vice-Chancellor A P Pandey.
In a confrontation that broke out during the raids, the police fired tear gas shell and mock bombs to control the students. Several students were injured, and many have now fled the hostels in fear. Mobile internet services have been suspended in several parts of Imphal following the crackdown.
Imphal West Superintendent of Police Jogeschandra Haobijam said the raids were conducted after the Pro-Vice-Chancellor K Yugindro Singh lodged a complaint at the Singjamei police station against the students for allegedly manhandling him. A senior police official of the West Imphal district, who was present at night, said, “At night a large number of student agitators were detained and as of now our officers are enquiring as to how many would be arrested and how many should be let off.”
Singh was appointed to the post on September 10 after Pandey was suspended by the HRD Ministry due to the “long-drawn agitation against him by the students and teachers”.
A caretaker of one of the five hostels said a large contingent of police, including commandos, forced their way in at around midnight and flushed out the hostellers. He added that the students had protested against the highhandedness of the police.
“Everything happened so suddenly. It is not clear why the police raided the hostel, but they entered with a list of students,” said a hosteller, who did not want to be identified.
Another student said, “At around 1 am, several police Gypsies came to the campus and personnel started entering hostel rooms. Tear gas shells were aimed at the hostels and the police used mock-bombs too. Many of the students had put toothpaste on their face to escape the burning sensation caused by tear-gas shells — but police thought they were agitators and picked them up.”
Singh and M Shyamkesho, Registrar-in charge, were earlier made to tender an apology by the Manipur University community after they tried to join duty on Thursday amidst heavy security. They tried to open the locks and enter the Vice-Chancellor’s office despite the campus being in lockdown.
The semester examination of the post-graduate course was also disrupted due to this.
According to teachers and students whom The Indian Express spoke to, the duo was entering the office to tamper the investigation against Pandey.
However, in his letter to the officer-in-charge at the Singjemei police station on Thursday, Singh wrote that they had gone to “see the overall situation at the University” and that while they were taking photographs of locked and sealed rooms, they were “kidnapped and taken to an unknown room” by the protesters which comprised members of the MUSU and the MUTA [Manipur University Teachers’ Association].
The letter alleged that the protesters had further forced them to sign an undertaking that there “sudden and unwarranted” entry into the campus has led to “turmoil and disruption”.
Professor Amar Yumnam, Department of Economic, meanwhile said, “Since an independent two-member inquiry committee plans to open the locked rooms of V-C Pandey and Shyamkesho, Pandey is desperate to open these two rooms before the Committee does. This explains the midnight attack on the sanctity of Manipur University on September 20 and subsequent hunt for faculty at their residences,” he said.